Now that the holidays are over and we are going back to our daily routine, we should also go back to healthier breakfast and snack options. 2021 is here and certainly, due to the conditions we live in, we should make this year a little more special, aiming to become a healthier and more active version of ourselves. How can this happen? But of course, by changing some of our habits for the better. We do not need to follow strict diets or do countless hours of exercise. What we need to have are good habits that we will be following constantly. It is one of these good habits that I will talk to you about today: I think you all know how important it is to have breakfast and appropriate balanced snacks as a daily habit. But did you know that eating oats on a weekly basis may have many positive effects on your health?
Oats are a source of soluble fiber (also known as β-glucans) and insoluble fiber, as it contains protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals. There is considerable research confirming that eating oats can lower bad LDL cholesterol and, therefore, the risk of cardiovascular disease. These two are interrelated as high bad cholesterol is one of the most important factors that negatively affect health and contribute to the increase of cardiovascular and other chronic diseases. In fact, as we have already said, the consumption of fiber contributes to normal bowel function, prevents constipation, and makes us feel full for a longer period of time.
Beta-glucans, in particular, seem to positively strengthen our immune system since they help in the effective fight against diseases and infections. Of course, more research needs to be done to confirm this. In fact, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has allowed the following claim for foods containing β-glucans: "Regular consumption of beta-glucans contributes to the maintenance of normal blood cholesterol concentrations." To make this nutritional claim, foods must provide at least 3 g of b-glucans per day.
This breakfast has been consumed for many years in Scotland and has now become commonplace for many people who like oats. It is very tasty for sure, and you can combine it with various types of milk such as goat, coconut, or almond. Some people consume it with orange juice or just water. You can add on top any fruits you like, seeds, as well as nuts and honey, or some syrup like agave. Simply try the different alternatives and thank me later.
Now, for those of you who want to try the “cold” version of porridge, I have this fantastic recipe. Some of you may have heard of overnight oats which is basically a mixture of oats, milk or juice, seeds or nuts, cocoa or cinnamon that is refrigerated either for a while or overnight. This version is a practical solution for those who just want to have a quick meal in the morning or want to take breakfast with them to work!
And now, let's get to the snacks… I think you all know that energy bars are an easy solution that you can carry around and consume whenever you want. So, how about you start consuming homemade energy bars with oats? They contain 255 calories and 7 g of protein per serving, while they are a good alternative for a nutritious snack that will make your day even sweeter!
Here's another way you can add oats to your diet. Crackers are another quick alternative for those of you who want to eat something fast, but also for those who want a savory kind of breakfast, midday or afternoon snack. Combine them with a little low-fat cheese, cottage cheese, salmon, cucumber, carrot, or cherry tomatoes and make a complete, delicious, and filling snack.
Similar to crackers, oatmeal bread rolls can be another way with which you can add oats to your weekly diet plan. Do not be intimidated by the word bread and think of the carbs! All foods are allowed, of course…We should simply consume them -as much as possible- in their most nutrient-rich version, in the right quantities, and not exaggerate.
For those of you who love cookies or for parents who want to give a slightly healthier version of cookies to their little ones, oatmeal cookies with tahini are another good alternative. Of course, we should not overdo it and overconsume cookies just because we found a healthier version of them! Balance and moderation are two significant factors that will play an important role in acquiring healthy habits.
You should also know that the benefits oats can offer to the body (in terms of lowering cholesterol) seem to be more effective when oats are combined with a liquid -such as milk or juice- than when the product is processed and you have a solid form -such as cookies or bread-. So, it seems that b-glucans do not appear to have the same properties when processed. Of course, further research needs to be done to confirm this too!
The only sure thing is that you should add oats to your weekly or daily diet to take advantage of all its benefits!
This article was written in collaboration with the Sports Nutritionist Anna Maria Volanaki, MSc, BDA, SENr.
* The website akispetretzikis.com offers as a service a variety of blogs and articles, based on scientific sources. All the articles are provided as general information and no text should be used as a substitute for advice from a physician or another health scientist, regardless of the date it has been published.